The kickoff between the Oregon Ducks and the LSU Tigers is only days away.
The Ducks have again had an offseason full of off-the-field trouble, suspension and overall scandal.
With injuries being relatively light for the Ducks, only suspensions to linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Cliff Harris will be particularly problematic for the Ducks.
Here’s a look at the Ducks' depth chart with headline players Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner leading the way.
Note: There is a difference between a reserve player and a backup. Backups are clearly the next in-line.
For the defense: click here
Thomas is easily the best scrambling quarterback in the conference, and he is one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 as well. Thomas is an early favorite for the Davey O’Brien award given to the nation’s best quarterback. I expect DT to be a Heisman finalist in 2011.
Backup: Bryan Bennett
It’s hard to really gauge how good Bryan Bennett really is. The coaching staff sure raves about him, but I have some skepticism. Hopefully, Ducks fans don’t have to see Bennett in the game (unless it’s mop-up duty). Oregon’s depth at quarterback is definitely a concern.
Reserves: Dustin Haines, Marcus Mariota and Brennan Doty
Haines is a walk-on, and Mariota will likely redshirt in 2011.
LaMichael James is the best running back in the country, and experts like Kirk Herbstreit have predicted LMJ to win the Heisman in 2011. James definitely has the talent; the only question is if Oregon’s depth will take carries away from him.
Backups: Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas
I think Barner is the fifth-best back in the Pac-12, and I have absolutely no concerns when he enters the game. As for Thomas (a.k.a. the Black Mamba), he has been absolutely electric in practices and therefore will forgo a redshirt.
Reserves: Tra Carson, Ayele Forde and Anthony Blake
True freshman Tra Carson may or may not redshirt; it’s still unapparent. He has a bruising power that could be useful on third and short or goal-line situations.
Josh Huff’s leg/ankle injury is apparently a non-issue, and the Ducks will need him against LSU. Oregon is incredibly thin at the wide receiver position, and after these three, there is a huge drop in talent.
Backups: Kenjon Barner/De’Anthony Thomas?
With the depth at running back and the lack of depth at receiver, look for one or both of these guys to play time in the slot.
Reserves: Daryle Hawkins, Rashaan Vaugn, Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler, Ben Butterfield, Eric Dungy, Nick Cole, Chad Delaney, B.J. Kelly and Blake Stanton
The Ducks have three solid incoming players in Blackmon, Sumler and Vaugn. Sumler is one of the fastest players on the team, but at his weight (165 lbs.) I expect him to redshirt and bulk up.
Oregon’s David Paulson is one of the top tight ends in the country, and he will be a huge target for the Ducks against LSU. With Oregon’s issues, wide receiver Paulson should get a lot of looks from Darron Thomas.
Backups: Colt Lyerla and Curtis White
Lyerla and White have been two of the biggest recruits for the Ducks in the past two recruiting classes. Lyerla is a freak of an athlete who will not redshirt and see immediate game time.
White has had a multitude of injury issues, and this is the year for him to prove himself before he gets buried on the depth chart.
Reserves: Christian French and Matt Pierson
While Weems is “technically” not a returning starter, he does have a ton of playing experience and did start for the Ducks in the national championship game. Weems will have a tough task blocking LSU’s strong defensive ends.
Backup: Ryan Clanton
Clanton is pretty much the backup at ever O-line position. He will see game time.
Reserves: Jake Fisher and Tyler Johnstone
Carson York is the Ducks’ best offensive lineman, and he could very well end up being an all-American by season's end. York will need to help carry the Ducks to a win against LSU.
Reserves: Mana Greig and Trevor Fox
Greig had a good spring and summer, and if the Ducks were to lose York, it would not be horrible to have Greig take his place. The Ducks have a little bit of depth.
This is a huge concern for the Ducks. With how good LSU’s front seven is having a center making his first career start could be disastrous. Oregon has depth, just inexperienced depth.
Backups: Karrington Armstrong and Hamani Stevens
It was a close race for the starting center position. If Grasu struggles, Kelly will not hesitate to send in Armstrong or Stevens.
Like the center position, the battle for the starting RG spot was close and came down to the wire. In Golpashin’s senior year, the Ducks need his leadership on a relatively new line.
Backup: Nick Cody
Cody nearly won the job, and he could step in at another O-line spot if someone goes down with an injury.
Reserves: Josh Sanford and Jamal Prater
Both guys will likely redshirt.
Mark Asper, like Carson York is the other returning starter on the offensive line. At 6’7”, 322 lbs, Asper is Oregon’s biggest starting lineman.
Backup: Everett Benyard
At 6’7”, 315 lbs, Benyard is pretty close. Benyard is ready to play if the Ducks need him.
Reserves: Andre Yruretagoyena, James Euscher
Both guys will redshirt.